Talia Mashiach is the CEO and Founder of Eved, the market leader in event commerce that automates the buying and selling for meetings and events. She launched Eved in 2010 in an effort to transform the $263B meeting and event industry from a manual and highly fragmented services sector into a comprehensive online marketplace.
I recently had a chance to sit down and with to Talia about starting Eved, becoming a successful female entrepreneur, and envisioning the future. Here’s what she shared with Technori (and if you want to want to hear her speak in person, she’ll be our Keynote at Technori Pitch this evening)!
What happened after graduating from Loyola that took you to the point of creating Eved?
My husband was in a band while I was at Loyola and that was my lead into the event business. I was actually running the back end of his business, so it was really cool to actually be in business school while doing that. I guess you could say I was already an entrepreneur, essentially running a company while in school. Business school allowed me to hone my skills, along with the opportunity to help the band expand their operations, which eventually led to forming Eved down the line.
What was the process for getting Eved off the ground and turning it into the successful business it is today?
It has been an exciting journey, but difficult. In many ways, it started with my prior company, where I created a local event services company to really figure out the industry and how technology could solve [event industry problems]. I feel like I actually started it in 2004 while creating ACCESS Chicago, which I have since sold, but that was the beginning of the journey and seeing how technology can bring event commerce onto the internet. I learned a tremendous amount about the industry and about how to solve problems. I had a lot of fun and it was just an overall great experience that prepped me for Eved, which taught me a lot about how to build a successful company to an exit.
The software at Eved has provided the capabilities to do a lot of different things. What are a couple of the main aspects that your clients find the most value in?
I think the primary one is that it is an e-commerce platform, it’s the first solution geared toward event commerce versus event management. By bringing transactions online, you increase response times, expedite invoice reconciliations, get quicker payments, and now have a lot of visibility into the data. Say you are a buyer and you need to track what you are buying – Eved helps you understand [purchasing] data more in depth so you can source more efficiently and create strategic supplier networks. If you are a seller, you can understand what sold and why, which will help grow your company.
Secondly, Eved serves as a meeting event marketplace where you can source and where people can sell across the meeting event chain, all online, which is pretty new in the industry. It has changed the traditionally manual process, which has been implemented over the last 80 years.
The third is that it is a collaborative network. It is a really centralized place where supply chain can interact with one another and aggregate. This is taking business technology to a whole new level. The tools people were utilizing before in the event industry were Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and emails. Eved has brought everything right to your fingertips and into the cloud where it creates real strategic efficiencies.
How has the software evolved from its initial release to what it is today? What influenced those changes?
We started as a source page solution on the buyer side and a complete proposal-to-pay solution on the seller side. Since we started on the source side for buyers, in the beginning we focused on ability for buyers to create their preferred suppliers online, and to automate the management of insurance, risk, and compliance- while at the same time creating a online marketing opportunity for the sellers. This was one of the first times companies had access to market directly to buyers or event planners specifically for the time they need your services. Now we have gotten to the source of paid side, which was a big part of this year, where there is a real focus on the commerce, which is what the goal has always been.
We always had the plan for source, and then the contract and pay, so I think model and strategy of executing against original strategy is where we really are now. I think it is definitely an adoption. If you asked me about one of the biggest challenges, I would say adoption. This is what I talk about when anyone is starting a business; that in itself is a challenge, but you also have to create a structure. Starting a technology or new kind of product company, is much different than starting a law firm or retail store. You have the challenge of creating something new and starting a brand new company. The other challenge we have is that we are also doing all this in a new market and we are selling against the [traditional] manual process. We are selling against what people have done for the last 80 years. So when you combine all of those three things, it becomes incredibly challenging, which is definitely what I love about it. It all boils down to adoption and getting people to change their behavior. I tell my team it is like really huge, heavy bricks that you have to keep piling on top of one another, and it takes a really long time to add the next brick, but each brick helps to build [a strong] wall. Not many people have the opportunity to be first movers, and move entire operations of an industry onto the internet.
It is no secret that female founders in technology and the startup space are few and far between – but growing. What would your advice be for other aspiring female entrepreneurs?
I think that women tend to think a lot more about the kind of life they want, and fit whatever their career is into it. Men more often think of their career and then fit their lives into it, which is a key difference. So, what I would say to women is: find something you really love and ask yourself what you really want- what is the goal? For me, building a technology company is not a lifestyle business, which is why I think a lot of women don’t necessary choose it. But if you can find something that you really love and you can do it in technology, I think you can really make it work. However, it is not easy. So you have to be incredibly passionate about it and you have to be willing to understand what the trade offs are going to be, and they have to be worth it to you.
I noticed your twitter handle is @ceomomof5 – how do you balance the demands of being both a CEO and a mother?
I think that being is parent is the biggest challenge any CEO or mother has – to balance your time, because your time can be so valuable. For me, I am as passionate about building a company as I am about being a mom. I love being a mom and being with my kids and so I really just try to find that right balance. I think the key is having a really great team around you at work, as well as at home, and realizing you can’t do everything yourself.
What was it like to be featured in Crain’s 40 Under 40?
It is similar to other things in the journey. I remember starting out and reading those [types of articles] feeling like, “Wow, those people are so far away from where I am at. What would it be like to meet them? To know them?” So it is actually fascinating when you are one of those people that – 5 or 10 years ago – you looked at and admired, and didn’t see yourself that way. I was really honored. On the flip side, you feel like you have to live up those expectations. There is a lot of pressure that goes along with it. And the media is great on your way up, but no person or company does anything perfectly. So, you better be prepared to face the media during the hard times, which is part of the reality of starting and running a business.
In a Forbes about Eved, you were quoted as saying, “A CEO needs to focus on the future, not simply running a business.” What is the future like for Eved?
As we move from a new kind of concept for an industry and gain traction, we are seeing the move from early adopters to the next set of people. So for us, it is exciting and I think we are establishing ourselves as a market leader. In the long run, we eventually want to get to an IPO. That is the goal of our company. With that though is just really focusing on building a great company, not focusing on the exit. There are a lot of steps and hard work, but are thinking about how are we going to get more adoption, move it faster. One thing that is frustrating is that it is just too slow right now. But of course, every entrepreneur says that.
How excited are you to present at Technori?
I am very excited! I think one of the things that helped move my company forward was having the opportunity to talk and learn from other people, especially about their experiences. So, the opportunity to share those back to others will be a lot of fun. I also just love the excitement in Chicago right now about the entrepreneur community. Things were a lot different when I started out. No one else was really talking about how great it was to build out a successful technology company. All the momentum is just so excited along with everything going on, and I’m really happy to be a part of it.
Get your ticket now to hear Talia’s keynote address at this month’s Technori Pitch!